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The National Policy for Sport 2017-2027, an elaborate 64-page document intended to position sport as a viable alternative for economic diversity, was launched at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua yesterday.

According to the Ministry of Sport, the event was held to inform organisations under its remit of the policy’s objectives and “the strategic plan to position sport as a viable alternative for economic diversity in TT.”

Former and current sporting icons, including TT’s first Olympic gold medallist Hasely Crawford, were in attendance, along with representatives from various government ministries, the Sport Company of TT (SporTT) as well as the TT Olympic Committee and other national governing bodies (NGB) for sport.

Key stakeholders were handed a copy of the policy.

Although launched yesterday, the policy was approved by cabinet on January 1. It will officially take effect from January 26, 2018 to January 25, 2028. The next review of the policy will take place on January 21, 2021.

Speaking at the function, Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe said the policy is intended to build on the previous one, which was used from 2002 to 2012. The former policy focused on the “total participation in sport” and “high performance sport”.

Cudjoe said, “While at the time, the 2002 policy had been considered to be holistic in its approach to sport development, it was never fully implemented. Over the years, various far-fetched unrelated programmes and projects were undertaken without a proper plan for implementation…”

According to the 2018 document, the policy is guided by the principles of equity, cooperation, productivity, sustainability, transparency and validity.

Its key focus is towards the achievement of the goals of: “Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of sport organisations; improving overall governance; improving financial management; promotion of sport specific research development and planning; promotion of public private partnerships; development of the sport tourism sector; addressing the deficiencies and shortages of human resource and technical skill within the sport industry; prioritisation of sport marketing; promotion and communication; development of sport commerce; promotion of sport as a tool for social development; and adoption of a comprehensive sport development system and focus.”

There is no immediate plan for the construction of new sporting facilities. However, this fiscal year there will be focus on the upgrade of the Hasely Crawford Stadium and the Jean Pierre Complex, among the most regularly utilised sporting facilities.

“We’ve spent billions – over $4 billion over the years – in developing infrastructure… We have done a poor job at maintenance, from the side of government to even you, the people who utilise the facilities. It’s not only aging or poor maintenance, (but) you also have some vandalism,” Cudjoe said.

SporTT chairman Douglas Camacho also addressed the gathering and implored those present to collaborate for the policy’s success.

“I trust that all of us in the room today, all the stakeholders, government, athletes, members of the public, press, everybody, gives life to the policy and it doesn’t become a dormant document.

“Let us not get on the seventeen to twenty-seven-(year time frame). If we could achieve the objectives in half the time and review and revise it, then let us do that. Let us make it work.”

He said SporTT will focus for the foreseeable future on the 21 sporting facilities which it is tasked with managing and maintaining, as well as its relationship with NGBs.

“Every effort is being made in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport and the Government of TT…to refocus our effort in both areas, to reignite the fire that has started in terms of developing that human capital among the sporting administrators and athletes, as well as ensuring the facilities for which the people of TT have paid an enormous price are properly maintained and well managed.”

Camacho warned against a selfish mentality. “(The) attitude that we sometimes have of our hands out – only to see what we can get and not doing what is required to be a partner to make it happen – is over.”

This, however, he says is often wrongly attributed to athletes who invest much time and money in achieving their goals.

“When one really analyses what an athlete does…(the reward scheme) is just a token.”

Camacho also lauded the government’s creation of a task force to review the direction of SporTT.

“I’m also very pleased that the government in its wisdom, not waiting for the launch of the policy, had also created a cabinet task force made up of representatives of the sporting community to re-look at the whole direction that SporTT itself were to be organised and how that relationship should happen between the Ministry of Sport, SporTT and the national sporting organisations.

That body of work has been completed, has been passed through the ministry of sport to the minister, who passed it onto cabinet for deliberation.”